The Bank of America predicts that Gen Z's income globally will reach a whopping US$33 trillion by 2030, surpassing even millennials by that time. Gen Zers were born between 1997 to 2012, making them now around ten to 25 years old.
But here's the bad news: only 8% of Gen Zers strongly feel that brands understand their generation.
The revelation comes from a report by Gen Z content studio Adolescent Content. Titled "Do Not Disturb", the report aims to help marketers understand what makes Gen Zers tick, and pinpoint what their turn-offs are. The studio surveyed 400 US-based respondents in 2021 to create the report.
According to the study, 94% of Gen Zers say they have big life goals. 75% say they are going to leave the world a better place than they left it. Businesses that are authentically driven by social good get loads of points from Gen Zers.
The also report reveals a handful of brand values that drive Gen Z's purchase intent: sustainable business practices (92%), affordability (91%), ethical business practices (90%), inclusivity (87%), and overall shared principles (86%).
In short, Gen Z support companies that genuinely seem to care about the world.
Adolescent Studio also outlines a few key examples of brands doing things correctly, and incorrectly, in the eyes of Gen Z. Let's check them out.
Pepsi - dislike
In 2017, Pepsi released an ad starring Kendall Jenner that received controversy for unintentionally trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement. Since then, Pepsi has left members of Gen Z with a bad taste in the mouth.
While this ad seemingly has not affected other Pepsi products, it definitely affected demand for their signature soft drink line. Gen Z is also relatively health conscious and tries to avoid consuming unhealthy foods.
More recently, Gen Z’s distaste for Pepsi has resurfaced because of another ad Jenner did with her tequila brand, 818 Tequilla. In that 2021 ad, Jenner appeared in mock indigenous clothing on horseback while Mexican laborers worked in agave fields.
The advertisement was color graded in yellowish tones to mimic western films, which already have a controversial history.
“Never, never, never will I purposefully drink a Coke or Pepsi product. Their plastic packaging has irreparably littered our planet for no reason other than their own greed. I just read an article today that they are essentially making bogus nonprofits (backed by government dollars) to pick up their mess and then give them the plastic for essentially free.”
– 23-year-old nonbinary college graduate from Florida
Instagram - dislike
Gen Z overall has mixed feelings on Instagram. While Instagram is one of the most used social media platforms by Gen Z, intra-company business practices and the negative impact of social media use on mental health make Gen Z think twice about the platform's impact.
Young people do not trust how FaceBook, Instagram’s parent company, uses personal data. In a similar vein, Instagram announced Instagram Kids in 2021, a now on-hold social media platform for children under the age of 13, and that met controversy.
“The brand I hate/avoid the most is probably Facebook. I don’t trust them with any personal information. I also don’t like how they use people’s personal information. Instagram is owned by Facebook and is basically the same to me at this point.”
– a 19-year-old male college student from Nevada
Nike - like
Gen Z’s skepticism and lack of trust in Instagram calls into question their feelings about Nike, a business historically known for sweatshop labor, high brand endorsement costs, kowtowing to authoritarian governments, and overly expensive products.
That being said, Gen Z has a great affinity for the brand and enjoys the products Nike releases despite all its historical backlash. Nike is striving to create more sustainable goods with recycled materials and is challenging its past business practices.
Ben & Jerry's - like
Gen Z loves Ben & Jerry's not only because the company is upfront about its values, but it's also been advocating social justice for decades. In short, Ben & Jerry's isn't all talk about making the world a better place with ice cream.
"They are known for taking a stand on political issues like police brutality and the occupation going on in Palestine. They also have sustainable practices and make a good quality product."
- a female college student, 21, Massachusetts.
Parade - like
Underwear company Parade specializes in size-inclusive, sustainable undies and bras. The firm also partners with multiple organizations to support LGBTQIA rights across the nation. For Gen Z, this is a breath of fresh air compared to other brands that have allegedly been mired in anti-fat, transphobic, and misogynistic sentiments.
"Parade is inclusive about body types, and they have a lot of diverse models."
- a music journalism student, 19, Philadelphia.
Amazon - dislike
According to Amazon, the company strives to be the world's best employer and safest place to work. But despite that, the tech giant has received constant criticism over its alleged anti-union practices, environmental harm, and tax avoidance issues.
This is why 74% of Gen Zers aren't shopping on the site, even during Amazon Prime Day – the company's annual discount event.
"As hard as it is, I try to avoid ordering anything from Amazon unless I really can't get it from anywhere [else]. [The company] exploits its workers, is practically a monopoly on multiple fronts, and doesn't have super ethical shipping practices."
- a female student, 22, Maryland.
Glossier - dislike
D2C beauty and skincare brand Glossier says it wants to democratize beauty and promote inclusivity. However, it turns out that the company has its own share of problems practicing what it preaches. In 2020, an anonymous employee post outlining Glossier's racist work culture generated a lot of heat from Gen Z.
"[I steer clear of] any brand that's been outed for being racist (Glossier, Drunk Elephant, Jeffree Star Cosmetics). Or, really, brands that claim to be inclusive and care for minority groups but say or do things that are the complete opposite of their 'beliefs.'"
- a college student, 19, North Carolina.
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